Wednesday 16 November 2022

Supreme Court rules on legal costs facing litigants challenging planning permissions

 The Supreme Court has ruled that litigants challenging planning permissions on environmental grounds are entitled to a special protective costs order (PCO) for all of their grounds of challenge. The decision, which overturns a decision of the Court of Appeal, has wide-reaching consequences for judicial review planning actions that cite European law, as it means an applicant who loses their case would not be liable for the successful party's costs. The core issue in the appeal was the correct approach to be taken by the courts in determining pre-trial PCO applications in planning and environmental litigation. The appeal arose from a challenge by Heather Hill Management Company, a firm of local residents to An Bord Pleanála’s permission for a strategic housing development of 197 residential units in Bearna, Co Galway. The High Court overturned the permission and subsequently decided the applicants were entitled to a PCO under section 50B of the Planning Development Act, which concerns the entitlement to public participation in planning decisions, for all the grounds of their challenge, including points that do not relate to environmental issues. The Court of Appeal then found the PCO applied only to the applicants’ environmental grounds.

This matter has been covered by multiple Irish news outlets

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High Court to get specialist planning division

 A dedicated planning and environment division of the High Court, with specialist judges, was approved by Cabinet on 2 November. The court will operate in a similar manner to the Commercial Court, and will be established by the Department of Justice in partnership with the Courts Service and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. Justice Minister Helen McEntee said that, along with reforms to planning legislation, the court would improve case processing and reduce costs, consistent with Ireland’s obligations under EU environmental law.

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New tax to activate vacant land for residential purposes

 The Government’s Housing For All – A New Housing Plan for Ireland proposed a new tax to activate vacant land for residential purposes as a part of the Pathway to Increasing New Housing Supply. The Residential Zoned Land Tax was introduced in the Finance Act 2021. Each Local Authority has published draft maps identifying lands which are subject to the tax. These are now open for consultation until the 1st of January 2023.

A supplemental map will be published on 1st of May 2023, identifying additional land considered to be in scope as a result of a change of zoning, servicing or where the local authority becomes aware of the fact that land, which didn’t appear on the draft map, may meet the criteria for being in scope, such as where this has been identified during submissions. The supplemental map will also be on public display and open to submissions which may challenge the inclusion of additional land on the map.

Land appearing on both the draft and supplemental maps, as amended to take into account the outcome of submissions made in respect of the land on these maps, will be included on the final map of land in scope for the tax in the local authority area to be published on 1st of December 2023. This land will be subject to the tax unless it is exempt as a residential property.

The objective of the tax is to activate land that is serviced and zoned for residential use or mixed use, including residential use, in order to increase housing supply and to ensure regeneration of vacant and idle lands in urban locations. These locations have been identified within statutory land use plans as being appropriate locations for housing and they have benefitted from investment in the key services to support the delivery of housing. The tax will be calculated at 3% of the market value and payable from 2024.

Article by Brendan Buck of BPS Planning & Development Consultants LTD

New Planning Permission Exemptions for Solar Panels

 The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, has signed into law revised planning exemptions for the installation of solar panels on the rooftops of houses and certain non-domestic buildings. The exemptions are aimed at increasing Ireland’s generation of solar energy and combating climate change. The changes take immediate effect.

Houses, regardless of location, may now install unlimited solar panels on their rooftops without any requirement for planning permission, subject to certain conditions. Solar installations will be able to cover the entire roof of a house, as the previous limits of 12sqm/50% of roof are removed. Exemptions also apply to rooftops of industrial buildings, business premises, community and education buildings, places of worship, health buildings, libraries, certain public utility sites and farms.

Certain restrictions continue to apply, including for developments which are near certain aviation sites, protected structures and Architectural Conservation Areas. Additionally, in the 43 designated Solar Safeguarding Zones, a rooftop limit remains. Solar Safeguarding Zones are areas where rooftop limitations on solar panel installations apply, to mitigate the potential impact of glint and glare near airports, aerodromes, and other sites with helipads like hospitals. The existing exemption of 50 square metres or less for the entire development has been increased to a rooftop limit of 300 square metres.

Exemptions have been introduced for the first time for the installation of solar panels on the rooftops of apartments; educational building/ health centre or hospital/ recreational or sports facility/ place of worship/ community facility or centre/ library/ certain public utility sites, subject to conditions and limitations and the rooftop area limit in solar safeguarding zones where applicable

free-standing solar panel installations for houses are exempted from the requirement to obtain planning permission subject to a 25 square metre area limit and conditions requiring a certain amount of private open space to be maintained for the use of occupants. The exempted area for all other categories except apartments is increased to 75 square metres. In addition, wall mounted solar installations of 75 square metres are exempted for industrial and agricultural.

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Emergency electricity plant receives planning permission

 An Bord Pleanála has approved Government plans for a 210 MW temporary emergency electricity generating plant, comprising of six 35 MW gas turbines units. Due to the amid fears over the state supply, the application was prioritised and ‘fast tracked’.

The planning documents stated that the emergency power plant is designated to start quickly and will run when the electricity demand is high and generation capacity from other, currently available sources is insufficient and at risk of not meeting demand.

The Environmental Impact Assessment lodged with the planning application noted that the plant will be in place for up to 5 years from early 2023 and will operate for up to 500 hours a year, typically 4 hours per days when called to operate, on natural gas only.

Article by BPS Planning & Development Consultants LTD

Build-to-Rent planning rules to be axed

 The planning rules allowing ‘build-to-rent’ apartments will be abolished. The rules which were introduced by the then Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy in 2018, mean that apartments which are owned by institutional investors and are developed specifically for the rental market do not have to comply with the minimum size standards required in apartments which are for sale. There are less stringent storage requirements and more apartments are permitted per floor.

The Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien is expected to issue an amendment to the existing guidelines, removing the reduced standards. The developments which are already in planning will be allowed to continue under the existing regime.

The move comes from the pressures on the Government to provide more social and affordable homes, as the number of homeless people in Ireland are hitting record highs.

Article by Brendan Buck of BPS Planning & Development Consultants LTD

Is this the most disputed piece of land in Dublin?

 The sale of 16.5 hectares of land on Dublin’s northside in 2015 has led to one of the most hotly-contested planning disputes the city has ever seen. The former Vincentian plot at St Paul’s College, Artane, was sold to Marlet Property Group. But plans to build on it sparked immediate controversy as it borders St Anne’s Park, the so-called “lungs of the northside”. We look back at the numerous attempts to build apartments at the location and examine the issues involved in the dispute. Crekav Trading GP, a subsidiary of Marlet Property Group, purchased the ground in 2015. Two years later, the sports pitches were closed off and the owners stopped cutting the grass. In 2018, planning permission was granted by An Bord Pleanála for 536 apartments. This was subsequently blocked by the courts after a case taken by residents. By 2020, planning permission was again granted, this time for 657 apartments. The courts also blocked this attempt.

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Application lodged for major residential unit on site of former Bessborough Mother and Baby Home

 A Dublin-based developer that was refused planning to build on the former Mother and Baby home site at Bessboro, Blackrock has lodged a new application this morning for a 92-unit residential development in the same area. Developer's MWB Two Ltd applied for planning permission in 2020 for an 8-storey building consisting of 67 apartments, saying the development would include communal open space areas, landscaping, car and bike parking spaces, bin stores, and public lighting. The planning was refused by Cork City Council, followed by an unsuccessful appeal by the developers. MWB Two Ltd received widespread backlash at the time from campaigners who claimed the development site overlapped with a child burial ground attached to the former Bessborough Mother and Baby Home.

Read the full article @ Corkbeo

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Green light for €360m housing scheme for Donabate

 An Bord Pleanála has given the green light to contentious plans for a €360m housing development near Donabate in north Dublin. The appeals board has granted a ten-year planning permission to Aledo Donabate Ltd for the 1,323-unit scheme on a site close to the Dublin-Belfast rail-line. The Corballis East Strategic Housing Development (SHD) is thought to be the second biggest such scheme in the State, second only to the 1,600-unit Holy Cross development in Drumcondra. Aledo Donabate initially lodged plans in August 2021 for 1,365 units for a site 250m south of Donabate town centre and around 50m south of Donabate train station.

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